Wag the Dog: Manage the Agenda

Sabbatical thoughts #2

What sets my agenda? What guides my days? The way I spend my days eventually shapes my life and legacy, so, I need to control what shapes my days.

imageI’ve noticed, as I’ve waded into sabbatical, that I keep picking up my phone and looking at it. My email is shut down, my phone number is temporarily changed, all notifications are off except for emergency contacts and family, but I am so used to taking cues from my phone that I keep looking at the empty screen. What’s up with that!?

I’m realizing my phone has been setting too much of my agenda. Someone sends me an instant message and I feel obligated to instantly reply with an answer, a solution, or a commitment. I get an email notification: Someone with an agenda is innocently attempting to reset my agenda. An incoming phone call that will probably consume 20 minutes just hearing about a situation and then another item added to my agenda before the end of the call.

One of the things that’s been stressing me out over the past few years is the inability to get important things done. What can wait until tomorrow usually does because every day my phone (or other communication devices) sets too much of my agenda for the day.

Everyone has this challenge, but I was not aware of how much it was true for me until, for the last few days, I keep looking at a blank phone. It’s like I’m expecting it to tell me what to do next. Good grief! I feel lost.

So, how do I need to fly differently? Here’s a few of my thoughts:

A communications ban for the first two hours of my day.

I get up early every morning to pray, listen, think, and read. If I look at notifications on my lock screen before I get out of bed, someone else is already setting my agenda. I want my daily agenda to be a collaboration between myself and God.

Set my daily agenda early.

Before turning on communications devices I will take a few moments to set my agenda for the day. When other items arise, I will put them in their appropriate place in the schedule.

Leave plenty of margin every day for things important to important people.

My second core value relates to people and relationships. People are always God’s focus and people are my focus. If my agenda is so packed that I do not have time for people, then my agenda and responsibilities are simply too tight. I cannot be reactionary, and the way to do that is leaving margin in my schedule. I simply MUST block time in every day’s agenda to check communications and respond. The problem, for me, arises when my agenda is so tight it has no room for response; then I become reactionary and something important suffers.

Layer and manage notifications.

In preparation for sabbatical I’ve spent a good bit of time thinking through the management of communications. I’ve set up new numbers and email and managed notifications on all of my social media apps. I’m discovering that I don’t have to have everything immediately ping my phone. Moving forward I will have one method for family to ping me with an instant notification, everything else will be set for me to check on schedule rather than being instantly alerted. I am committing myself to controlling communications rather than letting them control me.

Learn to respond with a simple “no” when necessary.

I love and care about people. I am a people-pleaser. I do not like to tell people “no.” I need to learn the art of a gracious “no.” I’ll always do my best to accommodate people important to me, but I must embrace the gift of limitations. When I say “yes” there has to be a space on my calendar to accommodate the “yes.” If I do not have time, then I either have to say “no” to the request or say “no” to something else. Every “yes” requires an equal and opposite reaction with a “no.” One way I need to say “no” is by not allowing instant communications to be instant, unless I want them to be.

Declare limited communication zones.

I cannot think and create at my highest level if I keep getting pings. Distractions drain creativity and focus. I simply must guard strategic and creative times. Stress levels build and inefficiency rules with a divided focus. When working strategically and creatively everything must be off. My emergency contact plan will be the only immediate contact possible during creative/strategic times.

Don’t believe the “multi-tasking” lie.

There is no such thing as giving two tasks your full attention. When we do two or more things at once we simply divide our focus and give less-than-our-best attention to each task. Exceptions might be doing two tasks simultaneously when neither of them requires strategic or creative thought.

Finally…

I have to control technology, rather than technology controlling me. I’ve known for a long time that I must fly differently to accomplish the focus needed to get into my legacy zone. These are things I’m thinking about in restructuring my life. I’m tired of being a mile wide and an inch deep. Focus is extremely important to effectiveness… I want to be effective.

(My priority during sabbatical is listening to the heart of the Father. I’ll not be moderating comments during sabbatical.)

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.